Not English Make: The Saga of the Lend-Lease M1911s
The British, along with their Australian and Canadian cousins, had at least a passing affinity with the M1911 platform going back to the days of the Great War. Canadian troops carried the hardy John Browning-designed pistols on the Western Front as early as 1914 and the “daring young men and their flying machines” of the RAF often had .455-caliber M1911s along for their fight against the Red Baron and his Flying Circus, ordered on a special contract.
Fast forward to WWII and the M1911 was commonly issued to elite Commando and Parachute units– the product both of early commercial contracts with Colt and wartime Lend-Lease production passed through U.S. Army channels to London.
However, the Brits made sure to double-check these guns through the Birmingham and London proof houses (it’s not like there was a war on or anything), and in the process, these guns often received upwards of a half-dozen post-production proofs and stamps, one of the most glaring was “Not English Make,” just so there wouldn’t be any confusion that it wasn’t a fine Webley or Enfield product.
I recently had a chance to look at a couple of beautiful circa 1943 Lend-Lease .45s that were passed on to Mr. Churchill and the gang and profiled them over at my column for Guns.com.